Canada bound for the FIFA World Cup again (finally)

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Will they make it? Tune in next month. OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay and CIker-Free-Vector-Images via Pixabay, manipulated by Lee Lim

Roster remains uncertain as superstar Alphonso Davies recovers from a kick to the head

Canada is set to compete at the FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar this upcoming November. This is the first time since 1986 that Canada’s men’s team has qualified for the World Cup. The men’s national team has been in a slump for quite a while and the change in player development and overall mindset has allowed the team to find new forms of success. A new coaching staff and leadership style by John Herdman, and the implementation of young, dedicated players like Alphonso Davies, has allowed Canada to have success through qualifying and beyond.

Canada beat Mexico in goals to claim the first spot overall in qualifying. Many Canadians never thought they would see the day where Canada would not only qualify for the World Cup, but finish first in qualifying. The shift in support was seen throughout the qualifying stages as Canada continued to build momentum during the whole process. In an interview with Sportsnet, head coach John Herdman echoed that thought process by saying “I think this country, they never believed in us. Because we’ve given them nothing to believe in. They believe now.”

A player who helped Canada have a chance to qualify is Canada’s young superstar Alphonso Davies. Davies was born in 2000 to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana. His parents fled the Second Liberian Civil War which occurred from 1999 to 2003 and saw more than 450,000 Liberians be displaced. In 2005, Alphonso and his family emigrated to Canada and found a home in Edmonton. In 2015, Davies moved to Vancouver at the age of 15 to join the Whitecaps FC Residency Program. Davies joined Whitecaps FC 2 in 2016, where he became the youngest player at the time to sign a USL contract at the age of 15.

He officially signed his first team contract in 2016, becoming the youngest active player in Major League Soccer (MLS) at the time, and third youngest of all time. Due to the electric start of his career in the MLS, Davies sparked interest from many high-profile teams in Europe, including Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool. In 2018, he ultimately signed a multi-million-dollar contract with Bayern Munich in Germany. Davies made his breakthrough in 2019 making that first team and winning Champions League with Bayern.

Davies’s national team experience started in 2014 when he was called to under-15 and under-18 national team camps. In 2016, Davies was named U17 Male Player of the Year for his performances on the under-17 and under-20 national teams during their friendlies. He was then granted the same honour again in 2017 due to his performances and impact on the senior national team. In 2017, Davies became a Canadian citizen, which allowed him to compete fully with the senior national team.

Davies saw success early on when he was named to the 40-man roster for the 2017 Gold Cup, where he went on to win the Golden Boot award, Young Player of the Tournament, and Best XI selection. He also helped Canada beat the United States in a CONCACAF Nations League, which was Canada’s first time beating the United States in 34 years.

Davies is ultimately a key player for Canada going into the World Cup. His ability and playing style give Canada the diversity and spark that they need. Canada has showcased that they can play without Davies; however, when he is not on the field, Canada’s drive and potential to win is not as pronounced.

On October 8, during a Bayern Munich match against Borussia Dortmund, Davies suffered a scary injury. He suffered a cranial bruise, or a bruised skull, after a Dortmund player kicked his head instead of the ball when Davies was trying to head the ball down during a 50/50 ball. He looked unsteady while receiving treatment and while being helped off the field. In response, Bayern Munich acknowledged that Davies was feeling good considering the circumstances, but stated that he would be sitting out of training the following Sunday. Bayern Munich says that the bruise was revealed by scans while Bayern’s Manager Julian Nagelsmann suspected a possible concussion after the game.

During a brief video on Instagram, Davies stated that he wanted “to say thank you everyone for the nice messages, and I’m looking forward to being back on the pitch soon.” There is no mention of when Davies will return to training, which may impact his full fitness going into the World Cup next month. Davies already suffered setbacks this season in the form of complications after a bout of COVID-19, which resulted in him having symptoms of myocarditis. Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart and is considered a mild heart condition, however it did require him to miss almost four months of playing.

The potential loss of Davies playing in the World Cup would be detrimental to Canada as Davies brings international experience, pace, and next-level soccer IQ to Canada’s game. However, it is important to remain optimistic of Davies’ return, as the World Cup starts in just over a month, which will give Davies some time to heal properly.

The World Cup draw puts Canada in Group F with Belgium, Morocco, and Croatia, giving Canada the potential to have success in getting out of the group stages. Belgium will be Canada’s greatest competitor while Croatia will give Canada a run for its money. Morocco won’t be an easy game for Canada, but Canada has the potential to beat them. If Davies is healthy, the team has a greater shot of being successful in this tournament and giving Canada something to cheer about. Canada’s first World Cup match is against Belgium on November 23, starting at 1 p.m. CST.

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